Taken captive in his teens by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, this young Hebrew was chosen to be one of the king’s advisors. The king chose well; Daniel would become the most valuable man in the kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar, powerful king of the Babylonian Empire, conquered Jerusalem and carried away the people of Judah for a captivity of seventy years. He rebuilt Babylon after its former decline and transformed it into one of the most unusual and beautiful cities of history.
Babylon covered an area of two hundred square miles and was surrounded by walls wide enough at the top to have rows of small houses with a space between them for the passage of chariots. There were fifty temples in the city as well as a huge complex of impressive buildings. The palace was built of blue enameled bricks; its construction carried the mark of master craftsmen, many of whom were probably captives chosen for this special project because of their abilities.
Here, too, Nebuchadnezzar built the famous hanging gardens as a special gift to his wife, a Median princess. They consisted of terraces, supported by massive masonry arches, on which carefully tended gardens had been laid out on different levels. These gardens contained a variety of Persian and Babylonian plants and trees. Vegetation transplanted from the queen’s mountain home was intended to comfort her when she was homesick. The Greeks considered the hanging gardens one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Into this beauty and splendor, four young Hebrew men were brought to become members of the king’s staff of advisors, or wise men. Among them was Daniel the prophet.
Not long after arriving in Babylon, Daniel and his three friends found themselves in serious trouble. An order went out from the king to execute all the wise men, due to their inability to interpret a dream that had come to Nebuchadnezzar. They might have been able to bluff their way through an interpretation, but the king could not even remember his dream, and so he had required that they tell him both the dream and the interpretation.
Stumped, they had grumbled: “There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean” (Dan. 2:10).
The king’s reaction? Fury! “For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain” (Dan. 2:12, 13).
Upon receiving word of the order for execution, Daniel asked for time to pray and guaranteed that he would reveal the king’s dream and its interpretation. In fulfilling that promise, Daniel gave us what has come to be known as the “ABC of Prophecy.” Commenting on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation, the late Dr. H. A. Ironside wrote: “I suppose it contains the most complete, and yet the most simple prophetic picture that we have in all the word of God.“
Why did God give a preview of the future to a Gentile king who had taken the Jews captive? We do not know. But that he did so is without question. History has proved the accuracy of that assessment. Fulfillment of the greater part of the preview has already taken place, and the stage is set for the remainder to develop. Pointing out the relevance of the king’s dream to those who live near “closing time,” Daniel said: “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…” (Dan. 2:28).
He then explained the dream and its interpretation: “Thou, O King, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:31 — 35).
The dream was of an image of a man with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, midsection and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet that were part iron and part clay. The interpretation was simple and yet profound, easy to understand but veiled without Daniel’s explanation. It is understood now by those who know the history of the rise and fall of Gentile empires from that day to this, and it is intriguing in its implications for the end time.
The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar, whose power in the Babylonian Empire was absolute. He must have listened with satisfaction to this part of the interpretation of his dream.
The breast and arms of the image represented the empire that would rise after the fall of Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire. Though this kingdom was larger, the Medo-Persian leaders were less powerful than Nebuchadnezzar, since laws were enacted that limited rulers’ decrees.
The third kingdom, represented by the belly and thighs of brass, was the Grecian Empire, headed by Alexander the Great.
The legs of iron symbolized the Roman Empire. The feet of the image, part iron and part clay, spoke of the revival of the Roman Empire in the last days, with the ten toes representing ten leaders of that coming European federation.
The great stone cut out of the mountain that fell on the feet of the image and destroyed it represents the coming kingdom of Christ that will be established upon His return to earth. Note that He will come when the final stage of the image is developed. If it can be shown that we are now at that point in history, there can be no doubt that closing time is near. The prophet Daniel was definite:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure (Dan. 2:44, 45, emphasis mine).
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s forgotten dream not only caused the king to spare Daniel’s life and the lives of his friends, but it also lifted him to an important position in the government of Babylon. This man of God would now have influence throughout the world, and his prophecies would never be forgotten.